Saturday 25 May 2019

Ahern hits taxpayer with €14,000 VIP tab

Patricia McDonagh

JET-setting former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern cost the taxpayer €14,000 in VIP airport charges and mobile phone bills since standing down.

Between his resignation in 2008 and May of this year, Mr Ahern ran up a €5,682 bill for VIP airport facilities and a mobile phone bill of €8,331.

All former Taoisigh are entitled to have their mobile phone and airport costs paid for by the State.

However, the amount claimed by Mr Ahern is the largest of any former Taoiseach, according to figures obtained by the Irish Independent.

This was on top of his wage and expenses as a sitting TD, income from his column in a British Sunday newspaper, and lucrative speaking engagements abroad.

Last year he earned around €467,200 from his speaking arrangements alone. He is registered with the Washington Speakers Bureau which charged $40,000 (€29,200) per speech -- and he gave 16 speeches last year. He also enjoys a €92,672 TD's salary.

Albert Reynolds, who served as Taoiseach in two coalition governments between 1992 and 1994, was the second highest claimant, with an overall bill of €5,446 during the three-year period.

John Bruton, who served as Taoiseach during the 1994 -1997 Labour, Fine Gael and Democratic Left coalition, claimed €3,477 in mobile phone charges, but had no airport costs.

Garret FitzGerald, who headed two Fine Gael-Labour coalitions between 1981 and 1987, claimed a total of €1,730.

Liam Cosgrave, who headed the Fine Gael-Labour coalition from 1973 to 1977, did not claim any funds under the arrangement.

Former Taoisigh are entitled to a chauffeur-driven car, garda protection and secretarial assistants.


It emerged recently that the cost of providing chauffeur-driven cars to four ex-Taoisigh came to €684,247 last year.

And Mr Ahern again ran up the biggest bill for fuel and maintenance costs at €13,040.

Mr Ahern resigned as Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fail at the height of the controversy over contradictions in evidence to the Mahon Tribunal about bank lodgments made in the 1990s when he was Finance Minister. Following his resignation he enjoyed a ministerial pension on top of his €92,672 TD salary.

However, in April of this year he surrendered this €83,426 pension following uproar over sitting politicians drawing a pension while being paid a TD wage.

During 2009, Mr Ahern travelled extensively to promote his autobiography, and to speak abroad. He could not be contacted yesterday for comment.

Last night, Labour TD Roisin Shortall insisted it was time to review the arrangement for former Taoisigh.

"It is time such expenses were brought into line with the realities of life. It is annoying for taxpayers struggling to get by," she said. "We see that Bertie Ahern is currently travelling around the world and has a considerable income from speaking arrangements."

"There is no justification for the taxpayer footing the bill when he is a sitting TD and has an income on the side."

The Government has no plans to change the arrangement of paying for VIP airport charges and mobile phones for former Taoisigh.

Irish Independent

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